During SOAR, every Niner gets asked if they'll join any UNC Charlotte organizations. I was asked the same question and found that joining a club was the answer to my isolation. Soon enough, I became so invested I'd become the president of the Shodō Calligraphy club in the thick of COVID-19. I wanted so much for this to be a year for our new club to grow and flourish and enjoy the intermingling of similarly passionate people, but the situation was wildly contrary.
Our virtual interest meeting had a large turnout. Still, only a handful of people participated in our events up until our last special event, Calligraphy From a Monk's View, which had an unusually large turnout of more than 20 people. In all, the fledgling Shodō Calligraphy Club dwindled to almost no members during the pandemic.
Crystal Cao, Campus Activity Board (CAB) president, and Andrew Kirkman, Niner Esports president, had better but somewhat similar experiences of COVID-19 negatively affecting their 2020-21 club events.
"Covid definitely robbed my senior year experience and my senior CAB experience," Cao said.
CAB is one of the largest programming boards on-campus that created 40 to 50 events throughout the semester before COVID-19.
"One of our goals and mission is trying to build a community on campus and make campus feel like home to people and create events where people can meet new friends, have fun and create memories while they're in college," Cao explained, "COVID-19 changed that by making all of their usually in-person meetings virtual and their events either into grab and go events or online through Zoom."
Participation in events was difficult to engage due to Zoom fatigue, Cao explained.
"It's not fun sitting around in front of a screen all day," Cao said.
Still, there were successes such as the Aux Cord Wars virtual event in which participants battled for the best songs and won prizes for them.
"We saw a bunch of people turn their cameras on," Cao said. "They had neon lights in their room and were just dancing and having fun with their friends."
COVID-19 was hard on the CAB team, but they were like a family and showed a lot of resilience and adaptability. They worked really hard to put out these events even though it was a difficult semester for a lot of students. Cao
"My board and my team are some of the most hardworking people that I know," Cao said.
Cao concluded, "Hopefully, next year everything will be better, and we can have real events again where people can meet each other and have fun and create memories."
The Niner Esports club had a different narrative as a gaming organization. It would seem that Niner Esports wouldn't be affected by the pandemic, but they actually struggled with growing an audience and a community of new members.
"Any event that helped people be active, even if it's in their own home, proved to be successful in keeping spirits high and keeping people engaged," Kirkman said. "Amidst the difficulties of COVID-19, their week of welcome event garnered a lot of support from their usual members and sponsors from around the world."
Overall, Kirkman said that his experience with Niner Esports during the pandemic taught him to "reach out to those who you may not know, those you may not share the same interests as, or those who you are simply talking to through our community channels. Your best friend can be a message away."
These are just three stories of UNC Charlotte organizations during the pandemic: their struggles, victories and perseverance, but UNC Charlotte has hundreds of other organizations that also had to cope with the restrictions of COVID-19. There are hundreds of more narratives of organizations that might have fared better or worse as everyone was hit differently by this turbulent time. Now we can look forward to a brighter time for UNC Charlotte and truly treasure the time we have together ‒ in person.